Reports leading PKK militant killed in Syria not confirmed: Turkey

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey has not been able to confirm reports that a senior Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) commander had been killed in Syria, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said on Monday, in what would be a major blow to Kurdish militants.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Saturday that a Syrian rebel group had killed Fehman Huseyin and his bodyguards in a bomb attack on Friday as he traveled to the northern Syrian city of Qamishli.

The killing of Huseyin, a Syrian Kurd known in Turkey by the name Bahoz Erdal, would be a blow to the PKK, which has fought intensively with the Turkish state since a two-year ceasefire collapsed a year ago.

“There is information from various news and intelligence channels saying Bahoz Erdal was killed, but this information is not yet confirmed,” Kurtulmus told a news conference.

While the PKK leadership is mainly based in the mountains of northern Iraq, the group is closely allied with the Kurdish YPG militia which operates in Syria. Turkey views both groups as terrorist organizations.

Huseyin is one of the top names on Ankara’s “red list” of most wanted terrorism suspects and regarded as one of the group’s most senior figures.

The PKK denied that he had been killed in a statement on Sunday, saying it was a lie spread as part of a propaganda war.

Reporting by Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan and Janet Lawrence